Accessing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS): views and experience of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities

Stream: Disability and diversity
Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Time: 10.45 am – 12.25 pm


The views of people with disability from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds are significantly underrepresented in research and the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This study explored the experiences of people from different CALD communities in South-East Sydney about their ability to access and use the NDIS. Initially, people with a disability and/or carers in the St George area (an area where the NDIS was not yet available) were participated in language specific focus group discussions and/or individual interviews to tease out their hopes and fears for the NDIS. The research team were then invited to include participants from the Bankstown area (where the NDIS had already been implemented), to include the experiences of people who were actively preparing for, or already using, the NDIS. Despite different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the participants expressed very similar experiences, describing communication barriers, a need for computer literacy and the importance of prior exposure to disability services. The data suggests that NDIS workshops and language resources are neither adequate nor effective in building capacities of these communities to engage with the NDIS. Nevertheless, peer education, individual advocacy and bilingual workers were support structures which enable participants to make informed decisions. Launched at a community event in December 2018 by Advanced Diversity Services, the report allowed the views of people with a disability from CALD backgrounds to provide valuable insights and inform both providers and the NDIA in developing strategies to better support people with a disability from CALD communities.


Ayah Wehbe (Presenter), SPRC/ UNSW
Ayah completed a Social Research and Policy (Honours) degree from UNSW in 2016. Since then, she worked on many research and policy evaluation projects around disability at Advance Diversity Services (2017-2018) and at the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) in UNSW (2017-current). Ayah’s research interests are diversity in disability and deaf studies, as well as inclusive research methods. She started her Scientia PhD candidture in June 2019 at the SPRC, exploring Muslim Women with Disabilities/deafness.

Charlotte Smedley, University of New South Wales (UNSW)
Charlotte who retains an adjunct position at UNSW is currently working as a medico-legal practitioner in the community after many years at UNSW working as a lecturer in the School of Social Sciences. Here she taught into the social research and policy and the social work programs. Charlotte has undergraduate qualifications in social work and occupational therapy and postgraduate qualifications in Disability Studies, Management of Community Organisations and Social work. Having worked in NGOs and local government organisations in both Australia and the UK she retains a particular interest in the media and government discourses surrounding disability.

Thushara Senaratna, N/A
Thushara is a social researcher and community development professional with more than 12 years of research experience in mental health, disability and aged care programs. Previously, he worked at Advance Diversity Services as Multicultural Development Officer- Ageing and Disability. He also conducted many research and program evaluations in community-based mental health programs implemented in Sri Lanka by BasicNeeds, an international NGO. He also assisted with disability and mental health research projects during his internship at Social Policy Research Centre in UNSW. He has qualifications in Bachelor of Social Science and Master of Policy and Social Applied Research (Macquarie University).

Julie Duong (Presenter), Diversity and Disability Alliance
Julie looks towards a society where people with disabilities are empowered to live the lives they choose to, and has a deep passion for helping individuals and organisations achieve their goals in this capacity. Julie’s working background includes projects of diversity and inclusion, working with the CALD community as a peer support facilitator and engaging in inclusive research design with peers.